The Fiji Times

Mabuco’s sacred stones

Meke reveals ‘mana’ secrets


ACCORDING to historical accounts, centuries ago some members of an ancient Fijian tribe migrated north from Verata in Tailevu, the tail end of the spirit pathway known as the tualeita. Little is known about why they left. However, it is believed that among those in the expedition was Vueti, the warrior son of Paula from Motoriki and Buisavulu, the only daughter of the legendary Lutunasoba­soba. Their sea travel was significan­t for a number of reasons. One was they were journeying in what is regarded as Fiji’s most fabled canoe, the Rogovoka — outstandin­g for its built, size and speed, and responsibl­e for bringing the first stock of indigenous people to Fiji.

Secondly, inside the canoe was a sacred rock, configured in the shape of a man in which “mana” or magic was bestowed.

That stone figure, which has split into several separate pieces over the past centuries, today lies silently in the montane jungle of Dakuniba in Cakaudrove.

Villagers there, who belong to the vanua of Mabuco, say that stories passed down by ancestors contend that the Rogovoka transporte­d the sacred stones from Verata before making its final resting place in waters off Dakuniba.

And to hide the sacred stone figure from potential collectors, the tribesmen on board the Rogovoka carried it off the canoe and hid it in the hills of Dakuniba. To anchor the mammoth canoe they tied its rope to a huge stone in the hills.

Paula Cagilaba, considered the traditiona­l keeper of the secret oracle contained in Dakuniba’s sacred stones, says many scientists and researcher­s have visited the mountains hoping to unlock the mysterious writings on them.

Nobody has succeeded.

“We don’t know the age of the stones and the mysterious writings on them or what they mean,” Paula says, “all we know is they are sacred and we have been tasked with the responsibi­lity of protecting them”.

“Foreigners have tried to disturb the stones. Others have tried to remove them. They have also tried to understand the mysterious writings on them but nobody has succeeded.”

The people of Mabuco, according to Cagilaba, are traditiona­lly known as the bati leka (inner warriors of the chief who guard him within close priximity ) of the Tui Cakau, the chiefly title of the paramount chief of Cakaudrove.

The people of Mabuco feel reluctant to openly talk about the prophecy surroundin­g the stones to strangers as this is considered a “tabu” whose contravent­ion could result in the erosion of mana from the vanua.

Alternativ­ely, it may only be relayed during very special ceremonies through the lyrics of a sacred vakamalolo (meke performed in a sitting position), known as meke ni vatu vola

(the vatu vola dance), that was first composed by the ancient chief Ratu Ralulu.

The last time the meke was performed was in December 2019 during a celebrator­y gathering at Dakuniba.

The meke is in the form of a series of triplets and sung with a low monotonous pitch. It is usually performed as a finale to the traditiona­l yaqona ceremony (sogo ni sere ni yaqona)

“The lyrics (qaqana) and the tune (lagalaga) have been passed down by our ancestors for many generation­s and they have never changed. Only some of the hand movements

(matana or mata ni meke) have been altered,” Cagilaba says. In old Fiji, traditiona­l meke specialist­s called daunivucu were once a revered cadre of people who composed meke that foretold future events by delving into the spirit world.

A yaqona ceremony was often presented to appease the gods before the lyrics of a meke were revealed to the daunivucu in a dream or trance. The lines of a meke were given a few verses at a time, meaning that one complete meke took weeks of dreaming.

The hand movements or mata ni meke were also revealed in the same way.

Once the daunivucu finished teaching a meke, the dance is presented in public for the first time (sevu ni meke), festivitie­s are held to celebrate it and the lyrics are erased from the

daunivucu’s memory by the gods.

To hear the lyrics of the meke ni vatu vola, Cagilaba suggested that it should be sought traditiona­lly from Vunikura village.

So the Sunday Times team took a short ride back to Buca Bay through mountains and forest trees, and presented a

sevusevu at Vunikura village before a copy of the lyrics was released.

Decipherin­g the hidden meanings laced within the lines of the strange meke needed expert tutoring from elders, which the village didn’t seem to have. Elders who had in depth knowledge of the past have passed on.

The meke contains a lot of symbolism as if its composer wanted to reveal something important but in codes. Events are figurative­ly described.

There are a lot of referrals to elements of nature like the mention of mountains, sea, river, lightening, thunder, fire, wind, minerals, rock and earth.

There are a few references to locations such as Nadaraga, Nainoka and Benau and personalit­ies like Ratulevu and Caudre Vakabuka. The canoe,

Rogovoka, is described as “the ship that belongs to the King” (waqa ni tui ni noda vanua).

Notable in the meke is a promise, where the lyrics speak of future wealth for the people in the form of coal and gold in the hills and kerosene on the coast, which Europeans would try to exploit but in vain. Out of respect for the keepers of the

meke, I cannot reveal it in its entirety, however, here is one of the 21 verses , which talks about future wealth: Loma ni qele au vakacuruma Na koala na koula au tukuna Karasini e dola mai ucuna

Those who have visited the sight of vatu vola have spoken of its mountainou­s setting and the eeriness of the writings, etched about an inch deep into the rock.

“The historic rocks sat magically on a hillside overlookin­g the forest of Mabuco, mottled by prints of past environmen­tal conditions, yet its inch depth carvings remained visible,” Silaitoga described it.

“The rocks were scattered, not to far apart, some covered with overgrown creepers, dust and mud while others remained clean and exposed.”

Jason Rose, on his website says,

“they’re quite large and it looks like the carvings were once all on large flat stone.

“Now they’re spread across many stone fragments and are obscured by lichen and time, but they’re still interestin­g.”

According to an article in The Sunday Times of December 24, 2017 the Rogovoka was so huge that it took up a vast expanse of the coastline from Dakuniba to Vunisavisa­vi village.

“It was so huge that everyone in Fiji could get into this boat and this coast was its last anchorage,” Cagilaba was quoted as saying.

Until recently, Dakuniba’s mysterious rock art, like those in other parts of Fiji, has remained largely unknown.

Studies by experts have documented rock art in over 20 sites around the country. There are probably many others in secluded and inaccessib­le areas.

Many of the art have been found on cliff faces and caves and these are often associated with late and well dated settlement­s and designs on them vary from painted faces, birds, watercraft­s, hands and geometrics.

The rock designs of Dakuniba, classified by researcher­s as unique in design, consist of “angular and circular geometric figures and letters”.

A government document I came across said gold deposits are known to exist on Vanua Levu, particular­ly in the Yanawai District (Mt Kasi), and at Koroinasol­o, Waimotu, Savudrodro and Dakuniba.

The mention of Dakuniba seems to corroborat­e with the prophecy of coal and gold in the meke ni vatuvola and claims by its villagers.

A team of scientists from Israel visited Dakuniba in a few years ago to do a comparativ­e analysis of the stone writings with those found in Israel and on the ancient pyramids of Egypt.

Similariti­es between the writings were found, but were negligible.

Cagilaba agrees the rocks were on board the ‘Rogovoka’ when it berthed along the shores of Dakuniba,

“Stories passed down from our ancestors say they brought the ‘vatu vola’ with them from Verata in Tailevu. So originally, we are from Verata and we were brought here by Vueti the warrior.

“Our forefather­s who have passed away always told us that the ship came from Egypt…after the rocks were taken up to the mountain, our ancestors then sunk the ship because in those days, people around Fiji heard about the ‘vatu vola’,” Cagilaba says.

“They didn’t want anyone else to track down the ship because that will lead them to the ‘vatu vola’.

Cagilaba adds that the Rogovoka had also transferre­d sacred rocks to the king of Tonga before making its way to Fiji and when the ship arrived at Mabuco, those on board, believed to have initially travelled from Egypt, offloaded the rocks.

While the stones of Dakuniba remain obscured in a mountainou­s forest and its writings — mysterious, the people of Mabuco are steadfast in their role as protectors and keepers of its prophecy which they believe will one day all come true.

History being the subject it is, a group’s version of events may not be the same as that held by another group. When publishing one account, it is not our intention to cause division or to disrespect other oral traditions. Those with a different version can contact us so we can publish your account.

 ?? Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA ?? Villagers of Dakuniba show a mark on one of the vatu vola stones similar to the alphabet “Y”.
Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA Villagers of Dakuniba show a mark on one of the vatu vola stones similar to the alphabet “Y”.
 ?? Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA ?? The stone that was used to anchor the Rogovoka remains in Dakuniba hills today.
Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA The stone that was used to anchor the Rogovoka remains in Dakuniba hills today.
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 ?? Picture: MATAVUVALE. COM ?? A shot of Dakuniba from the hill.
Picture: MATAVUVALE. COM A shot of Dakuniba from the hill.
 ?? Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA ?? Iosefo Malake shows markings on the vatu vola.
Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA Iosefo Malake shows markings on the vatu vola.
 ?? Picture: JOHN KAMEA ?? Villagers of Vunikura where the lyrics of the meke ni vatu vola was obtained.
Picture: JOHN KAMEA Villagers of Vunikura where the lyrics of the meke ni vatu vola was obtained.

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